The Meath GAA results archive will have this match down as a draw but it was as good as a win for Oldcastle as Paddy Gilsenan’s last minute free was enough to earn them promotion to Division 1 and a final date with Castletown.
For Ballinlough it was another case of acute disappointment they required a win to gain promotion and when Peadar Byrne’s injury time effort struck the post and went wide it was yet again a case of ‘so near and yet so far. However when the dust settles and they look back at their league campaign they will realise they have made significant progress; they have played five senior teams and have only once suffered defeat and after a couple of years hopping between divisions they have now established themselves as a strong Division 2 team.
The game itself was quite stop start; blighted by numerous frees which can be partly attributed to the slippy conditions, however what it lacked in quality it made up for with excitement and entertainment. Oldcastle were quickest out of the blocks with Paddy Gilsenan heavily involved early on, he scored two frees as they went ahead 0-4 to 0-1 after 12 minutes.
For much of the first half Ballinlough struggled to create openings as they carried the ball from deep positions, it took a couple of long balls from Peadar Byrne to unlock the Oldcastle defence and it was Ken Rothwell who profited, scoring a point in the 20th minute and then three minutes later he received the ball inside the Oldcastle defence and finished low to the net from close range this put the intermediate team were ahead for the first time; 1-2 to 0-4. The Ballinlough scores came slightly against the run of play and Oldcastle settled again with points from Paddy Gilsenan (free) and Ronan Farrelly either side of a well worked Conor Mc Hugh goal which left his team ahead; 1-6 to 1-2 at half-time.
For much of the opening half Oldcastle’s Vincent Reynolds and Conor Mc Hugh had held the upper hand at midfield, but the Ballinlough management team introduced Seamus Fagan into this area for the start of the second half and instantly they started to win more possession. Ballinlough were now utilizing a more direct style of play and long ball into their forwards was causing some problems for Oldcastle, they conceded three close range frees in the first ten minutes of the half as Kevin Devine brought Ballinlough to within a point; 1-5 to 1-6. The momentum was firmly with Ballinlough and when the Oldcastle defence failed to clear a Peadar Byrne free the ball broke to Mark Mc Cullen who poked the ball into the net, Seamus Fagan concluded a scoring burst with a point in the 42nd minute after Benji Smith had made a great surge forward.
Oldcastle were rattled but sensing their promotion ambitions were hanging by a thread they wrestled the initiatve back from Ballinlough as Alan Mc Cann and Ronan Farrelly came deeper to win much needed possession. Paddy Gilsenan brought them to within two points with a free in the 45th minute but they squandered some glorious opportunities and still trailed by two points; 1-7 to 2-6 with only two minutes of normal time remaining.
Ballinlough: K. Mc Guinness, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, R. Mc Guinness, M. Mc Cullen, Colm Mallen, T. Mc Cullen, Cian Mallen, K. Mallen, L. Maguire (0-1f), S. Geraghty (0-2), P. Byrne (0-4), S. Byrne (0-1), K. Rothwell (0-2)